Abernantbychan and David Owen Jones
Below are two articles by Anne Owen Taylor which appeared in the Cardiganshire FHS journal volumes 2/8, June 2001 and 2/9 Oct 2001. They are copied here with the permission of the author and publishers, they contain minor amendments from the original articles.
Abernantbychan, [Plas y Glyn], Glynarthen, Penbryn.
David Owen Jones (1899-1926) Military Medallist.
(PLAS Y GLYN), GLYNARTHEN, Penbryn
Er cof am Nance Eirlys Thomas (cyn Owen) (1922-2001) a ganwyd yn fferm y Plas, Glynarthen, gan dreulio ei holl oes yno.
(This article is dedicated to Nance Eirlys Thomas (Nee Owen) (1922-2001) who spent her life farming and welcoming visitors at Plas y Glyn.)
The site of the ancient estate of Abernantbychan stands in a pleasant vale appropriately a mile from Glynarthen village in the parish of Penbryn. (grid reference SN 3149 4947). The old estate name has fallen out of use and the present farm is known as Plas y Glyn or Plas, Glynarthen.
The first of the old family to appear in surviving documents is Lewes Dafydd Meredydd, formally of the unidentified Gwernygored. He is traced to Owen ap Bradwen through Llewelyn Dalran, the first of the family to settle in the south. Owen married Sioned daughter and heiress of Gwilym ap Seisyllt, Lord of Abernantbychan. Up to the mid 17th century Abernantbychan was the home of the Lewes family, later of Coedmor, whose members were thirteen times returned to Parliament. It seems that although they were politically prominent they were not particularly active and were not among the Cardiganshire plasau who patronised the Welsh poets in the 17th century. Daniel Huws has written a detailed account of this family. The estate then passed to the Pryses of Gogerddan. The last reference to the old manor house is sometime after 1710 when Elizabeth Brigstocke is described as living at Abernantbychan House.
The old house itself has long disappeared with some of the original stone having appeared to be used to build the 19th century farm buildings. Samuel Meyrick writes in c1810 that " the arch of the door is the pointed ellipse and the wainscot within the house, from its carved work, and the figures on it, seems to date from the Elizabethan reign. The mould in the garden is said to have been brought from Ireland, and the vulgar add, on the account no venomous reptile will live in it".
By 1760, James Thomas is listed as freeholder of the property but probably held a long lease from the Pryses of Gogerddan. Later, the estate let the demesne of 63 acres to James Owens (1803 -1864) from whom the present owners are descended. James Owens enlarged the present farmhouse in 1835 and the inscription above the front door names the house as Abernant Vaughan. After this time the farm was known as Plas, Glynarthen or Plas y Glyn.
James Owens (1803-1864) was the son of Owen Owens (1770-1844) and Elizabeth (1780-1844) who were living at the Wig, Llangranog in 1841. There is a family tradition that Owen Owens was descended from a prominent North Wales family possibly the Tudors of Penmynydd, Anglesey. This is as yet neither proved nor disproved! He certainly did not end his life with the benefit of a family fortune, his estate being valued at less than £20.
James married Ann James (1805- 1875) of Pencaeau, Glynarthen and moved to Plas Abernantbychan as a farming tenant. James and Ann had at least 8 children but only 3 survived infancy; Ann (1832-1853), John ( 1834-1910) and David Owens (b.1840) who became a Custom and Excise Officer in Bristol. James had an older brother George (1798-1873) who lived at Plas but did not appear to take any of the usual responsibilities of an older child and was not a member of the Glynarthen Chapel.
The death of Ann at the age of 21 appears to have hit her parents particularly hard. The bard Dewi Emlyn wrote an epitaph for the gravestone which advised the youth of Glynarthen that no matter how well they looked they should seek God as they could die at any moment like dear Ann. Dewi Emlyn had emigrated to Parisville, Ohio, USA but had a baby named Ivor, buried at Glynarthen.
John Owens (1834-1910) married Eleanor James (1840 -1916) daughter of Stephen (1815-1892) and Mary James nee Morris (1813-1892) of Penlanfach, Ponthirwaun. Mary was from Deinol Farm, Glynarthen probably the largest farm in the area at the time. John Owens bought Plas from the estate in 1886 for £2,400 together with Gellideg and other smaller farms in the area. He was a farsighted and intelligent man often being the first farmer to locally introduce the latest technological innovation. He has been variously described from different sources as compassionate man who looked out for those less fortunate than himself to a hard businessman with an eye for the ladies. As a non-conformist John was involved with the Tithe Wars at Blaenporth and consequently fined. He initially took the stand that he wasn't going to pay, and presumably prepared himself for prison. His wife Eleanor took another more practical view, " Gwell i chi 'neud John neu shwd alla i fagu y plant 'ma i gyd !" ( You better had (pay) or how am I to manage raising these children) The fine was paid. Eleanor must have also worried about the reputation of the family. A tramp, John Owens, acknowledged as kin and often given a bed for the night, had his funeral paid for by Eleanor - outside the family's parish at Betws Ifan.
John and Eleanor had nine children and all survived into adulthood. There seems to have been a multilateral decision by the children to drop the "s" from their surname Owens. Although some of their living descendants, born prior to 1930, have found a surprise "s" surreptitiously slipped onto their birth certificates!
James Owen (1865-1938) the eldest, farmed at Waunfawr, Glynarthen with his wife Ann Davies (1872-1945) daughter of Evan Davies of Waunfawr and Elizabeth Evans. They had five children Johnny, Ifan, Bet, Stephen and Elfyn. The children had very diverse talents and were very involved in the social and cultural life of the area. Descendants of James are still farming at Waunfawr and the Plas land.
Stephen, the second son was a star pupil and was sent to a private school in Taunton, Somerset. He was the first of the children to leave the area and he joined the National Provincial and Union Bank of England later to become the NatWest Bank. He quickly climbed the promotion ladder reaching a very senior position. He married Eleanor who was originally from North Wales and whose father was the Lord Mayor of Liverpool.
Stephen's headmaster in Taunton wrote to John, his father, asking if he had any more sons like Stephen. John wrote back saying he had plenty and in due course his third son Johnny was sent down to Somerset. Johnny was a completely different character to his brother and although probably the more academic of the two was very difficult to handle. The headmaster did not make the request for more potential pupils a second time. It appears that Johnny was of an independent mind with terrific drive and determination. He became the influential chief medical officer for Tredegar having first qualified as a pharmacist and then a medical consultant. He amassed an incredible 20 plus degrees and diplomas during his career. In 1935 he bought Bryngobaith, Llangranog as a holiday retreat.
Son number four David (Dado) Owen (b.1873), married Elizabeth daughter of Capel Gwnda, Glynarthen. They had five children, Johnny, Hettie, Tom, Owen (Owen M Owen MBE Cardigan) and Ieuan.
The three daughters of John and Eleanor did not fare as well as their brothers. Ann Ellen Owen went to Canada with her four children c1910 to join her husband. Her family begged her not to go but she insisted. The family's fears for her welfare were well founded and her life ended in tragic circumstances. Ann Ellen's children made a good life for themselves in Canada and daughter Nellie visited and stayed at Plas several times during her long life, known always as Nellie Canada.
Sarah Elizabeth Owen (1885-1919) married Thomas Morris, Pantseirifawr, Glynarthen and died in childbirth aged 34. Her sister Mary Jane remained single and also died at 34.
By the beginning of the First World War there were two sons remaining at Plas; Owen Morris Owen (1875-1937) and Griffith Thomas Owen (1879-1953), the writer's grandfather. Owen married Annie, daughter of Parce Ffawydd and the two of them lived and farmed at Gellideg, the farm next to Plas bought by his father. He was a deacon at Glynarthen Chapel and a poet. They had one son, who still lives in the area. Griffith remained at Plas and married Sarah Jones daughter of Thomas and Anne Jones Caeryglyn, Glynarthen. They had three children, a son, the writer's father, whom moved away from the area and two daughters. The two sisters Nell (1921-1948) and Nance (1922-2001) had a double wedding in 1946. A wedding of this kind is considered by some to be unlucky and so it proved. Nell died very suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 27.
I am sure that James and Ann Owens would be pleased to know that Nance's husband, son and grandchildren still live at Plas, a continuity of six generations.
- Daniel Huws, " The Lewes Family of Abernantbychan", Journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society 1969
- Francis Jones, "Abernantbychan", Historic Cardiganshire Homes and their Families. 2000
- Samuel R Meyrick , "Abernantbychan", The History of Cardiganshire 1907
The writer would be very happy to hear from anyone interested in the Plas family and in particular whether anyone else has heard of the Tudor, Penmynydd connection.
David Owen Jones (1899-1926) Military Medallist
There are few families in this country that have not been touched in some way by the First World War. Of the thousands of young men who signed up in the early years, few could have had any idea of the horrors awaiting them, yet most faced their ordeal with fortitude and resilience. This is the story of one such resilient young man from Cardiganshire, David Owen Jones.
Dai was born on 13 March 1899, the son of Thomas and Anne Jones nee Owen of Caeryglyn, Glynarthen, Penbryn parish. According to the official records he joined the Welsh Guards in Carmarthen on 27 November 1915 at the age of 19 years 10 months. Either Dai had lied about his age or his recruiting officer was a poor mathematician because he was actually 16 years 8 months and underage.
Dai probably came over as a mature young man because he had had to grow up early. His mother died in 1909 when he was 10 years old and his father two years later. Tom Jones, Dai's father was a stonemason and a talented singer and musician. A 100-verse elegy written at the time of his death described him as a leading light in Glynarthen chapel and a successful singer and choir leader, well known throughout the county. After the death of Tom and Anne, their only daughter Sara, the writer's grandmother, who was 14 years older than Dai, brought him up along with her other younger brothers.
The eager young guardsman was sent out to France on 22 July 1916. He was badly wounded in the left leg during the battle of the Somme on 10 September 1916. Just 20 days earlier his brother Enos had been killed fighting at Ypres and is buried in the Welsh Guards cemetery at Les Boeufs. His two brothers, Thomas John and Evan had also been wounded in battle. My grandmother's torment must have been almost unbearable, as news of the death of her brother Enos and the injuries of her other brothers trickled through.
The seriousness of Dai's wounds necessitated his return to this country to recuperate. Nineteen months later, on 31 March 1918 he was considered sufficiently recovered to be sent back to the front line. At the end of October 1918 Dai was part of a mission to infiltrate enemy lines by crossing the River Selle near Bavai. For his courage on that mission Dai was awarded the Military Medal. There were no citations for Military Medals in the First World War so we don't have full details of his actions but his award was published in the London Gazette on 17 June 1919. In the "History of the Welsh Guards" David Owen Jones is named as one of those, amongst others, who displayed courage and initiative before crossing the River Selle. None of the others named appears to have been from Cardiganshire. I believe that Dai talked little of that night but my grandmother always thought he should have been given a higher award. Maybe she was a little biased.
A few days after the mission on 6 November 1918 and just five days before the end of the war, Dai was badly wounded for the second time, in both legs and his left arm, by machine gun fire. On the same day his relative Sim Jones from Glynarthen was killed at Manancourt.
Dai took 5 years to recover from his wounds. He joined the Cardiganshire Police force in May 1923 and was stationed at Aberystwyth and Cardigan. In 1926 he had been doing summer duty at Devil's Bridge and on 18 September had gone on his motor bike to Llangurig where he had traced a man from Leighton Buzzard who was wanted by Aberystwyth police for allegedly handling stolen goods. Having arrested and delivered the man to Aberystwyth police station Dai was returning home to Devil's Bridge with two friends, Jenkin Phillip Lewis of Rhiwmynach and John Lewis, gardener at the Hafod Arms Hotel, Devil's Bridge. Jenkin and John were riding on a motor bike a few yards in front of Dai but when they reached the 13th milestone from Aberystwyth they lost sight of Dai's headlights. They stopped and turned back to look for him. They searched for about an hour until they eventually found him, fifteen feet below the road on the riverbank lying underneath his motor bike. He was killed instantly. He was 27 years of age and about to be married.
Maybe, after all that Dai had experienced, he thought himself indestructible but his body had been much weakened by his terrible wounds. Perhaps it proved too difficult for him to handle a heavy police motor bike that night. Judging by the tone of the newspaper report of the accident the community was really shocked by his death. He was described as a smart and capable officer who was very popular.
David Owen Jones was buried alongside his parents and brother Joshua at Glynarthen cemetery. A plaque was erected in his honour in 1994 in the new police headquarters at Aberystwyth.
The family does not known the whereabouts of the Military Medal but we believe it may have been given to Dai's fiancée who may have lived in Aberystwyth. We would be very interested to know the identity of Dai's intended and the whereabouts of the medal.
- Capt. R E Fletcher - Headquarters Welsh Guards, Birdcage Walk, London.
- History of the Welsh Guards by CH Dudley Ward (John Murray 1920)
(Gareth Hicks - last updated 6 April 2009)